Q&A with LAMC Alum Victoria Quach

Posted on: 12/4/2020

victoria quach 

Los Angeles Mission College Communications recently did a remote Q&A session with 2005 alum, Victoria Quach. Victoria is currently a Senior Client Analytics Specialist at Capital Group in Los Angeles. She received a Master of Financial Engineering from the UCLA Anderson School of Management and a Bachelors in Applied Mathematics from UCLA.

Describe Your Career Trajectory Thus Far

My current role is Senior Client Analytics Specialist at Capital Group. I’ve been working in the Financial Asset Management industry for about 12 years. Some of the responsibilities in my current role include conducting research that supports the value proposition of investment products provided by Capital Group and supporting clients with insights and expertise regarding portfolio construction and asset allocation.

Prior to joining Capital, I worked as a Vice President at Blackrock focusing on Multi-Asset model portfolio construction and asset allocation, where I developed quantitative macro-trading strategies and managed portfolios that invested in global assets. Before that, I worked as a Quantitative Research Analyst developing investment strategies for global tactical asset allocation and fixed income teams at Franklin Templeton Investments.

I finished grad school just after the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) in 2010, so job prospects looked dismal, especially in Finance. I got extremely lucky in landing the quantitative research role at Franklin, especially because I just simply submitted my resume through a recruiting website and got an interview. Anyways, the essential skills for a job in Quantitate Finance tend to be: intuition/passion for financial markets, ability to execute a scientific research process supported by implementation of econometric/statistical/mathematical tools, programming skills (Python, R, Matlab, C++, Excel), clear communication/presentation skills, and attention to detail.

How Did You Come to Mission?

There was a program that waived tuition fees for LAUSD, K-12 students to attend local community colleges if they didn’t exceed part-time units. So, officially I began attending LAMC part-time in 1996 at the age of 10 to take Arithmetic to prevent summer boredom. 

I grew up nearby in Sun Valley, so LAMC was close to home and my mom was a student at LAMC. She started taking classes at LAMC to pursue a career in Child Development and to build skills that better enabled her to help me with my schoolwork as a child. I am fortunate enough to have mother who went above and beyond in trying to provide me with the best possible future. She’s been an integral part of my education. 

I became a full-time student at LAMC in 2003 when I left high school early by passing the California High School Proficiency Exam and skipping 11th and 12th grade. I didn’t enjoy high school and was eager to begin the next chapter.

What Was Your First Impression of LAMC?

My first impression was freedom. I had the freedom to explore and pursue my academic interests.

What Were Some of Your Favorite Classes and Professors?

I could go on about this for a while, lol. Reflecting on my college experience, there were a lot of favorable experiences I gathered while at LAMC. 

I was young when I first attended college, so even though I thought I knew what I wanted to major in, I didn’t actually know. I changed majors four times: from Biochemistry to Business, and Economics to Communications. It’s a funny thing that I transferred to UCLA as a Communications major because it’s ridiculous in hindsight given that I’m an introvert and enjoy problem solving.

I changed my major to Applied Math my first quarter at UCLA because I had unknowingly fallen in love with the topic while at LAMC. I find Math to be honest, elegant, and pure; a subject that still captivates me. Until my second year at LAMC, I didn’t even know Math was a major. As I recall, in one of my final semesters at LAMC, I told my calculus professor at the time, Dr. Malki, that I was going to pursue a Communications major. He was mortified, lol.

I still remember that conversation and he said, “You’re good at Math and majoring in Communications would be a waste of your talent. You should major in Math.” That conversation put pursuing Math on my radar and planted the seed. Up until then, I greatly enjoyed Math but didn’t have the confidence to formally pursue it as a major and didn’t think I was bright enough to do well at Math at a four-year university. Fortunately, Dr. Malki believed in me before I believed in myself. I couldn’t have the career trajectory I’ve been on without Dr. Malki’s input or studying Math. Even today, he continues to mentor and believe in me, and I’m forever grateful.

Ms. Wong also stands out in my mind. I took her Calculus II and Statistics courses. She was always incredibly approachable, encouraging, and genuinely willing to help. Ms. Wong taught concepts in an intuitive way and had a sunny disposition during lectures that made Math even more fun. I felt as though she truly wanted me to succeed, and in return, I wanted to succeed and demonstrate to her that her efforts were worth the investment.

Mr. Reynolds in the biology department was also an exceptional professor. I took a few of his classes early on when I was planning on majoring in Biochemistry.  He was passionate, patient, incredibly knowledgeable, and open to questions.

Why Was LAMC a Good Choice for Your Major?

Even though it wasn’t necessarily obvious at the time, LAMC was THE BEST choice for me. At a large public four-year university, the core class sizes are typically 100+ students. I would’ve felt lost in a sea of students, but the small class sizes at LAMC kept me engaged. I also liked the intimate feel of the campus.

But even more important than the class and campus size were the professors, namely Ms. Wong and Dr. Malki. Through their support, I was nominated for the SURF program which led to an internship at NASA/JPL!  As a kid I dreamed of working at JPL, so that was one thing checked off my bucket list.

What Message Do You Want to Share with Current/Future Students at LAMC?

At the risk of sounding cliché, my suggestions are dare to pave your own path and don’t take no for an answer. I was the first generation in an immigrant family to pursue a Bachelor’s degree, so like many, I had to figure out higher education and career opportunities for myself. There was never a clear path and opportunities were unknown; in addition, I had no network or connections. My only options were to manage things I could control, i.e. hard work, taking ownership of my educational and career aspirations, and equipping myself with less common, marketable skills.  

Also, challenge and invest in yourself, which will require dedication, persistence, and perseverance. The investment will pay dividends in your future and challenges help to uncover your potential.  I recall two concrete examples of this.

First, I distinctly remember that I failed my very first mid-term in Linear Algebra after transferring to UCLA; I ranked 110/113 students. I was in disbelief and shock because I had never failed an exam in my life prior to that! I cried continuously for about a week afterwards, lol, and distraughtly asked myself, “Is this proof that I’m incapable of pursuing a Math major? Is this proof I’m not smart or capable enough? Am I going to fail all of my exams and need to drop-out of UCLA?” I know this might sound dramatic, but I truly asked myself these questions. 

Ultimately, I had the choice to either drop the class or carry on with the hope that I could make a comeback. After much deliberation with myself or anyone that would listen to my woes and self-doubt, namely, my unfortunate older sister lol, I decided to remain in the class. My professor agreed to drop the first midterm score if I could do better on the second midterm and final exam.

I was stubborn and refused to accept failure, so I studied nonstop for the remainder of the quarter. I would set an alarm to begin studying at 4 a.m., then attend classes, then study at the library afterwards, and then go home to study more until late into the night. I did this seven days a week because I knew I could only control how hard I worked and not much else. My goal was to develop a deep and thorough understanding of the concepts and improve my speed at solving the problems.

After reflecting on what went wrong in the first midterm, I had identified that one factor was poor time management.  So, I wasn’t going to allow speed to be my weakness on the second midterm or final exam. In the end, my dedication paid off, I made a full recovery! I received an A on the second midterm and final exam and gained a deep intuition and knowledge of Linear Algebra. 

This was a great lesson at the start of my time at UCLA, and I learned a lot from my initial failure. For the remainder of my time at UCLA, I did well in all my Math classes because I had developed a better studying strategy and felt more confident in my abilities. To my surprise, I graduated with a 4.0 in Math, and I continue to use Linear Algebra in my current work.

Secondly, Math majors at UCLA were required to take a programming class. My first exposure to programming was rough. It didn’t come naturally or obviously to me. I often had no idea what was going on during class. After completing the course, I vowed I’d never code again. However, in grad school, Quantitative Finance curriculums require a great deal of programming in their coursework, so I had no choice. With more exposure and practice, I developed a comfort and became accustomed with the logic and syntax of programming, and while I’m no developer, I now enjoy coding and still do regularly in my day to day work.    

Finally, have a willingness to change and pivot when you find something isn’t working for you, eventually the discomfort in change will empower you and provide you broader, more diverse experience. LAMC is where the second chapter of my life began, and it prepared me for an unbelievable journey I couldn’t have forecasted!

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